Recently we’ve seen a bit of a craze for infographics: they are appearing in dedicated coffee table books on every subject, you now find them frequently in newspapers, magazines and online articles and all over social media. It is likely that social media has had some influence on this, since infographics make it easier for complex and often dull information to be shared within an eye-catching 140 characters with just a couple of clicks. Additionally it is now much easier to produce infographics with the availability of easy-to-use free software.
However, people have always wanted to share information with the public and visual images have always been a successful method of attracting attention. While that word ‘infographic’ only began to appear in the second half of the 20th century, they have existed in media under other names as soon as printing technology allowed them to.
One period when these kinds of images came into their own was during the Second World War, when graphic design techniques were flourishing and information needed to be controlled and disseminated quickly and successfully.
The Ministry of Information had the task of presenting data about the progress of the war to the British people in a way that would be interesting and inspiring. Statistics on their own wouldn’t achieve much so a variety of creative imagery was used. They use sillhouetted symbols to represent more complex occurances and concepts such as industrial plant attacks, and they vary the size of symbols to represent differences. These methods were employed increasingly after the end of the war, particularly to emphasise the success of Britain’s industrial recovery. All of the examples below come from the National Archives.